C.Hoarfrost scene: The disappearance at the Cecil Hotel contains all the ingredients of a great mystery of true crime: a missing potential victim; a notorious locale; a dangerous urban environment; a variety of suspects; an avalanche of puzzling details; a viral video that offers far more questions than answers; and a series of coincidences – or are they synchronicities? – suggesting the matter could be the by-product of a government conspiracy or supernatural phenomena. Everything one could long for from a genre effort is here, although the best thing about this four-part Netflix series (premiering Feb. 10) is ultimately its conclusion, which delivers a stinging criticism of the conspiracy theorists – and theories who first turned his story into a cause of celebre.

Directed by Joe Berlinger, who is not alien to the genre – he directed it the Paradise Lost trilogy as well as Netflix Conversations with a killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes– Crime scene: The disappearance at the Cecil Hotel concerns Elisa Lam, a 21-year-old student from Vancouver who disappeared on February 1, 2013 while visiting Los Angeles on a west coast vacation. At the time, Lam was staying at the downtown Cecil Hotel, a building with a large entrance and lobby that misrepresented his true, seedy nature as a haven for drug users, pimps, and killers. As a cheap short- and long-term residence for residents of Skid Row – one of the poorest and most crime-ridden metropolitan areas in America – the Cecil had a long, infamous history, including being one of the most recently reported residences in the Blacks traded Dahlia, Elizabeth Short as well as the temporary home of Richard Ramirez, also known as the Night Stalkerwho walked naked and bloody through the halls, on the way to his room after the slaughter. His nickname was “Hotel Death”.

Cecil’s scandalous past made him the inspiration for American Horror Story: Hotel, but Lam likely knew nothing of his reputation. Under the direction of manager Amy Price (introduced in new interviews), the hotel split in two, created a second lobby and entrance, cordoned off three floors and renamed this new section “Stay on Main” to reflect the budget to trick into. conscious travelers. It was this “separate” hostel that Lam visited in early 2013. However, after a few days’ stay, she went to the MIA, and leaflets distributed around town did little to offer promising clues. Through interviews with the detectives who handled the case, as well as dramatic recreations and narrated readings from Lam’s extensive Tumblr blog, which she treated as a veritable online diary, Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel establishes its confusing scenario, which is a significant one LAPD investigation of the hotel, which yielded few concrete indications.

Until that is, the police discovered Surveillance camera video by Lam in one of the Cecil’s elevators, hoping that everyday citizens could help decipher its riddles, they put it online.

What followed was a real internet sensation as the Lam elevator video quickly went viral, sparked intense scrutiny and debate, and inspired a legion of “web sleuths” – the kind of amateur detectives who helped bring Luka Magnotta down defeat as shown in Don’t fuck with cats– to try to figure out what was going on in the confusing clip. Over the course of four minutes, this footage shows Lam entering the elevator, pressing several buttons, hiding in the corner, repeatedly sticking his head out looking for an invisible figure (or engaging her?) And moving her hands erratically ( as if she were in) a trance) and finally leave. Their behavior is bizarre, as is the fact that the elevator doors stay open for an astonishingly long time and even open again after closing to show which floor Lam was on – despite the many buttons on the control panel, it would have sent it elsewhere should.

There is no obvious explanation for this series of events that sparked such wild online speculation, making the Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel its alluring hook. Even with a third episode, which is largely spinning, Berlinger’s documentaries create tension from the confusing nature of his story. Discussions about the shabby dangerousness of the area and the filthy heritage of the Cecil add to the number of possible ways Lam might have become victims. And once her body is found – floating in one of the roof water tanks that has been supplying the residents of Cecil with contaminated water for weeks – the question of how she ended up in this deadly situation remains a mystery. This, in turn, motivates web experts like John Lordan and John Sobhani to ponder the Lam viral video, review the autopsy report, and visit the Cecil to resolve the case.

Discussions about the shabby dangerousness of the area and the filthy heritage of the Cecil add to the number of possible ways Lam might have become victims.

Berlinger exaggerates a little with the creepy dramatic reenactments, but Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel benefits from a number of solid speaking heads and a central Whodunit that proves to be fascinating again and again, especially when web sleuths make amazing discoveries, such as The striking similarities between Lam’s fate and the 2005 horror remake Dark Water and a government-made tuberculosis test on Skid Row just days after Lam disappeared – and the name “Lam-Elisa.” ” wore. The director leans heavily on these startling revelations while highlighting Lam’s Tumblr font, which portrays her as an adventurous but restless young woman who may have been looking for strangers to befriend, and the one with bipolar disorder struggled with antidepressants and antipsychotics that she was supposed to treat.

In its final installment, Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel deduces what really happened to Lam, providing a sharp reprimand for the suspicion of the online conspiracy that arose after her viral video debuted. A 21st century mystery that turned out to be a mental illness tragedy. It’s proof that fantastic online sleuthing (which often equates to scary murderous tourism) says far more about its practitioners’ desires and dreams than about its nominal subjects – a criticism that is all too timely when faced with a scourge in 2021 deadly QAnon madness.